Two days ago (May 20) Chris Matthews on his nightly TV show Hardball likened Ted Kennedy to the "man in the poem" - the poem being Wallace Stevens's "The Emperor of Ice Cream." Click here and listen to a brief excerpt of the show. For Chris, the poem is about the life-force, the one guy who's completely alive in the atmosphere of death. Maybe he's put his finger on the poem's essential antic quality. Well, maybe not. But it's certainly an illuminating way to think about this particular Kennedy. Death all around, so there's got to be someone whom we can call who will constantly remind us of life's ongoing fecundity, the wenches dawdling in their usual dresses; the boys, oogling; the creamy messes prepared in the kitchen; as many drinking joking jaunts in one's boat in the bay as one has time left for.
Call the roller of big cigars,
The muscular one, and bid him whip
In kitchen cups concupiscent curds.
Let the wenches dawdle in such dress
As they are used to wear, and let the boys
Bring flowers in last month's newspapers.